Monday, January 25, 2010

Should the Senate Be Apportioned Based on Population?

I love maps, even (especially) those of fake places. So I encourage anyone to click through to James Fallows's blog for a larger version of what the United States would look like if the 50 states were redistributed into 50 entities of equal population (a bit over 5,000,000 people each.)More here and here.

Some scattered thoughts:

1)I am squinting and can't figure out if Allentown would be in Philadelphia or Susquehanna. If anyone is better at reading tiny maps than me, please comment and tell me.

2)I understand that, as someone whose friends mostly align with Team Red, I am supposed to hate this proposal. We are supposed to love the Electoral College, and liberals are supposed to hate it. As the Founders fretted, making NYC and the SF Bay separate cities would skew the political system in favor of city dwellers. We would thus disrupt the integrity of the yeoman farmer class or something.

Maybe; I am not so sure. It seems a bit arrogant -- and dare I say it, un-conservative -- to presume to know, for all time, the right way to balance the interests of different classes and different regions. Maybe city folk are more freedom-loving than they were in the 18th century. As my beloved Artist Formerly Known as Ilya has written in some ways the educated classes are most friendly to liberty. So, too, breaking up California so that the suburbs get more electoral votes might benefit Republicans. I'm also not really sure how reshuffling votes in the Rust Belt changes the electoral calculus. I defer to real experts here.

3)For traditional American federalism to work, there must be states. Duh. But can federalism work if the states are not the same states for all time? Like, if the boundaries of the states were redrawn every 25 years -- as one of Yglesias's commenters suggests -- would it matter? What the commenter sees as a bug in the scheme, I see as a virtue -- if state governments have to disband every few years, they can't screw nearly as much up. (No Johnstown flood tax in place for 100 years!) On the other hand, would the lack of stable states make the central government all the more powerful?

4)Or is the real problem that there would be interest groups fighting for control of the redrawing process every 25 years or so? And that the new districts would be gerrymandered to meet their interests?

5) If interest groups were constantly fighting about state boundaries, would this be a less harmful use of their time than what they are doing now?

6)Some of the names of the new fake states are cool. Coronado! Allegheny! Pamlico! Tombigbee! I completely support any public policy that involves coming up with new place names that are better than the older ones. (I spent a lot of my childhood sitting around coming up with better names for places in my town than the ones that existed. This, again, is why I grew up to be not a Burkean.) Also, if officials are sitting around debating the merits of Susquehanna v. Lancaster v. Pennsyltucky for a given swath of the country, that's probably good -- it means they have less time to do things that are actively harmful.

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